AND THEN I WAS FRENCH Film Review.
Directed By Claire Leona Apps
AND THEN I WAS FRENCH is the debut feature from Claire Leona Apps, and it’s an ambitious endeavour, but ultimately drifts wayward before it’s shocking – and surprising – ending.
The timid Cara (Joanna Vanderham) lives a mundane life with very little excitement or adventure. She lives at home with her aunt in the countryside and is friends with a know-it-all friend, Zoe (who has been with her boyfriend a long time). But all of this changes when Jay (Lewis Rainer) stumbles into one of her classes, late.
He ignites a flame inside her that’s been repressed her whole life, a passion that blinds all judgement and by the end, utterly consumes her. They become friends, and she is roped into taking Jay to see his borderline-psychopathic brother, Matt. This is a regular occurrence, and we see that Jay can have – admittedly, unknowingly – so much power over Cara, yet be subject to patronising treatment from his older brother.
The two storylines between Jay and his brother and Jay and Cara feel separate and disconnected. They seem to belong in completely separate universes, and it would have been more interesting to see the film focus on Cara as opposed to Jay’s psycho brother who seemed to bring nothing to the film, other than being a carbon copy of Boogie Night’s Rahad Jackson (the drug dealer at the end, with the firecrackers), but not as scary!
The world of AND THEN I WAS FRENCH bothered me greatly. It was as if it was conceived with one purpose: to inflict as much pain on Cara as possible just so, irrespective of whether the narrative, and decisions made by characters, made sense.
Jay becomes engaged to Natasha, and this compels Cara to change her whole persona; to make Jay love her by becoming someone she clearly isn’t. Her rapid – and drastic – transformation does flag an interesting point up about the lengths we will go to impress someone we’re attracted to. Even if it means becoming someone we aren’t. But, Cara’s transformation feels rushed and unbelievable, putting friendship’s at risk for “practise”. She does, admittedly, become unrecognisable and is driven by a desire for Jay. But this doesn’t excuse the fact that it appears to be an erratic decision, and one that doesn’t seem realistic.
At times, the film felt completely and utterly absurd, but this prevented the film from ever getting boring. It brings up some interesting themes, and highlights how human reason is prone to being overwhelmed by desire.
One may think that if the characters were in control, as opposed to the plot, we would have a more effective and believable film; albeit one with less action and unpredictability, but it would have been better off for it.